Charity man arrested over terror probe

March 26, 2009 / Asian News

A FATHER-OF-THREE has been arrested by anti-terror police in Bangladesh after they found a cache of weapons at an orphanage run by his Stockport-based charity.

Faisal Mostafa - a chemist who has twice been cleared of terrorism charges - is being quizzed in connection with the raid, his father Ghulam Mostafa told Asian News's sister paper, the M.E.N.

Dr Mostafa, 45, is a trustee of Green Crescent, a charity registered to his home in Heaton Mersey.

The charity runs a school and orphanage on the remote island of Bhola, in south Bangladesh, which was raided by an elite anti-terror squad on Tuesday.

Officers claim to have found `nine or 10' guns, 3,000 bullets, grenades, walkie-talkies and army uniforms.

Innocent

They also say they discovered leaflets about Jihad (holy war) and equipment for making bombs. A teacher and three caretakers were arrested at the scene.

Lt Cdr Mamunur Rashid, of Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion, said: "We suspect the orphanage has been used for terrorists - for training and attacking."

Ghulam, who lives with his son at Green Pastures, Heaton Mersey, told the M.E.N on Thursday his son was entirely innocent.

"He runs a small orphanage for children aged eight to 11 and a medical centre and he is not a terrorist," said retired accountant Ghulam, 73.

"The equipment they found is not for bomb-making.

"He's a hunter and has a licensed gun. The cartridges are expensive and he makes his own. He's been accused of being a terrorist in the past and been cleared of all charges by British courts.

Scared

"He goes over to Bangladesh at least once a year to make sure the orphanage is being run properly. He has high blood pressure and a heart problem and I'm worried and so are his wife and children. I'm scared he will not get fair treatment and that is my greatest concern.

"The British High Commission was told he had not been arrested when he had and the authorities over there then had to admit that he had been arrested. He has dual nationality and the British High Commission has told me they can't help.

"If he was here I would not be as worried because I know he would get a fair hearing.

"He is a nice, hardworking boy, well behaved and he set out to help the poor people of Bangladesh after seeing terrible suffering when he lived there as a child."

Dr Mostafa, who has a PhD in chemistry, was put on trial in 1996 in Manchester for conspiring to cause explosions.

A jury was told that chemicals, timers and detonators were found in his house. He said they were there because he was writing a book on explosives.

Dr Mostafa was cleared of conspiracy to cause explosions but was sentenced to four years for illegal possession of a pistol with intent to endanger life and banned from owning a gun.

Cleared

In 2000, Dr Mostafa and another man from Birmingham named Moinul Abedin were arrested following a surveillance operation by MI5. A court was told a lock-up linked to Abedin was found to contain 100kg of the explosive HMTD.

A bag containing wiring, latex gloves, scales and traces of the explosive were found in bin bags outside a house both men had been seen using in Birmingham. The authorities also found passports, visas and immigration papers in different names.

When Dr Mostafa was arrested the prosecution said he had discs in his jacket which contained a `terrorists' handbook' and that further documents were found on his computer at home.

Following a trial in 2002, Abedin was convicted of committing an act with intent to cause an explosion.

Dr Mostafa was cleared of conspiracy to cause explosions and doing an act intended to cause an explosion.

In July 2008 he was stopped at Manchester Airport as he tried to board a plane to Bangladesh with a gas-powered pistol and bullet parts in his luggage.

He said the gun was a gift for his brother and they were going on a hunting and fishing trip. He was given a 56-day jail sentence suspended for two years and 100 hours' community service for possession of a weapon.

Green Crescent, which received £63,200 in 2008 from donors, says its purpose is to `help those who are impoverished by means of facilitating free education and health care via the construction of schools and clinics in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan'.

It also claims to be active in Britain, helping `youth from poor ethnic backgrounds to build confidence and responsibility by sports and social events'.

Neither of two listed spokesmen for Green Crescent could be contacted today.

The Charity Commission said it was `seriously concerned' by the raids.

Chief executive Andrew Hind said: "We are working with relevant law enforcement and other agencies to investigate the allegation that terrorist activity is connected with the charity."

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Statistics on Child Soldiers

The charity runs a school and orphanage on the remote island of Bhola, in south Bangladesh, which was raided by an elite anti-terror squad on Tuesday.

Officers claim to have found `nine or 10' guns, 3,000 bullets, grenades, walkie-talkies and army uniforms.

They also say they discovered leaflets about Jihad (holy war) and equipment for making bombs. A teacher and three caretakers were arrested at the scene.

Lt Cdr Mamunur Rashid, of Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion, said: "We suspect the orphanage has been used for terrorists - for training and attacking."

Whether the accusations are true or not, this article does bring-out an issue that DOES exist in many parts of the war-torn world.  Do orphanages help train soon-to-be religious-war warriors?  According to a report written for the UN in 2000:

Armed groups take children as they pass through villages. Some groups have specifically recruited orphans and nurtured their loyalty.  Even girls are not spared.  [From:  http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/briefing/soldiers/soldiers.pdf ]

Unicef also addresses the issue of child soldiers in the article called, "Children at both ends of the gun"

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.

With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are "more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers." And they usually don't demand pay.

A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.

According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a 'vacuum cleaner' approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.

The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to "increase their courage" and to dull their sensitivity to pain.

Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier's pay is given directly to the family.

For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their 'wives'. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child's experience of joining armed groups:

"At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry ... later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations 'to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion ... In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights."

And to think... all this time, the general public has been, (and continues to be), led to believe there are "safe havens" for the children of poor parents/families.... places where children can be saved and be given a "second chance" with the promise of a better-life and all sorts of "golden opportunities".

Does this suggest those who contribute (financially) to an orphanage (that secretly trains soldiers) are also supporting a future war?

Pound Pup Legacy